Your Guide To Common Asthma Medications

Navigating all the asthma medication options out there can seem very daunting at first. But you don’t have to go at it alone.

At Saenz Pharmacy, your dedicated McAllen pharmacists are here to walk you through all the common asthma medications available so you can make the best choices for you and your family.

Different Categories

When it comes to asthma medications, there are four main categories to choose from:

  • Long-term medication: Taken on a consistent basis to treat chronic asthma and to prevent possible asthma attacks. This medication is the most important for someone suffering from asthma.
  • Quick-relief medication (also known as rescue medications): These are used to prevent or treat asthma attacks. Quick-relief medication provides fast and short-term relief for your symptoms.
  • Allergy-induced asthma medication: This is taken to reduce sensitivity to allergy-producing substances (allergens).
  • Biologics: When used in conjunction with control medications, this will stop underlying biological responses that cause inflammation of the lungs.


For each category, there are generally three or four different types of medication to choose from. Understanding the different types will help you to make the best choice for you or a loved one.

Long-Term Medication Types

Inhaled corticosteroids

These anti-inflammatory drugs reduce tightening and swelling in the airways. These medications work best as a long-term solution and may take many months before results are seen.

Examples of inhaled corticosteroids include:

  • Fluticasone (Flovent HFA)
  • Budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler)
  • Mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler)
  • Beclomethasone (Qvar RediHaler)
  • Ciclesonide (Alvesco)

Possible side effects include irritation of the mouth and throat, as well as oral yeast infections. Although these side effects are possible, corticosteroids are not known to cause serious side effects.
Leukotriene modifiers

Used to block the effects of immune system chemicals called leukotrienes, these medications can prevent symptoms for up to 24 hours. Leukotriene modifiers include:

  • Montelukast (Singulair)
  • Zafirlukast (Accolate)
  • Zileuton (Zyflo)

Although rare, possible side effects include agitation, aggression, hallucinations, depression, and suicidal thinking.

Long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs)

The purpose of these medications is to open the airways and reduce swelling for twelve or more hours. LABAs have been found to contribute to severe asthma attacks so they are often used in conjunction with an inhaled corticosteroid.

Salmeterol (Serevent) is the LABA most typically used.


Theophylline relaxes the airways and limits the lung’s response to irritants. It is taken in pill form and used to treat mild and nighttime asthma.

The side effects linked to this drug are insomnia and gastroesophageal reflux.

Combination inhalers

Combination inhalers contain both a corticosteroid and bronchodilator, and some examples include:

  • Fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus)
  • Budesonide and formoterol (Symbicort)
  • Mometasone and formoterol (Dulera)
  • Fluticasone and vilanterol (Breo)

Quick-Relief Medications

This medication is a fast-acting bronchodilator. It can be used to treat emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and severe asthma attacks.
Oral corticosteroids
Used to treat severe asthma attacks, the main two that can be taken are:

  • Prednisone
  • Methylprednisolone

Side effects that can occur from long-term use include cataracts, osteoporosis (thinning of your bones), muscle weakness, high blood pressure, and below-average growth in children.

Medications for Asthma Triggered by Allergies

Allergy shots (Immunotherapy)
This is an option for treating allergic asthma. You’ll take a skin test to find out which allergens bring about your asthma symptoms. Once you’ve taken this test, you’ll receive a series of injections that carry small doses of those allergens.
Eventually, your sensitivity to those allergens will decrease or disappear altogether.
Allergy medications
This medication comes in the form of oral and nasal spray decongestants and antihistamines. You can buy them over-the-counter or get a prescription written by your doctor.


Taken by injection every two to four weeks, this medication is used to treat asthma that is caused by airborne allergens. When you have allergies, your immune system will produce antibodies to attack substances that generally cause no harm—these substances actually produce allergies.
Omalizumab blocks allergy-producing antibodies, reducing asthma and allergy symptoms. Some examples of Biologic medications include:

  • Mepolizumab (Nucala)
  • Benralizumab (Fasenra)
  • Reslizumab (Cinqair)

It is important to know that the FDA has issued a warning about a slightly increased risk of heart and brain blood vessel problems while taking this drug.
Find the Perfect Asthma Medication for You With the Help of Saenz Pharmacy!
The use of asthma medications can vary due to age, the severity of asthma conditions, and the symptoms you have. Because of this, your McAllen pharmacists will work to find the best asthma medication for you!